Skin disorders: blood vessel abnormalities

If there are abnormalities in blood vessels just below the skin surface, this may be visible on the outside. For example, abnormalities such as a port-wine stain, stork bite, varicose veins, rosacea (red cheeks or couperose) are well-known skin conditions. If the condition occurs on the face, it can be disfiguring. Although some conditions can lead to complaints, they are usually quite harmless. Which skin conditions due to an abnormality of the blood vessels occur and how can this be treated?

Blood vessel abnormalities

The medical term is vascular malformations and this means that there is a tissue defect in the construction of the blood vessels. There are different types of deviations. They can occur in the smallest blood vessels (capillaries), veins, arteries, but also in the lymphatic vessels. They are often already present at birth and the cause is sometimes unknown. It is believed that some abnormalities may be hereditary.

Wine stain

A port-wine stain is an error in the construction of the capillaries. Just below the skin surface there are more capillaries than normal and they are also wider than normal. This ensures that it appears on the outside as a red spot with a certain pattern. The port wine stain is present from birth and grows with the child. Later in life, the vessels will swell further and the port-wine stain will turn purple and become somewhat bumpy on the skin surface. Port wine stains are harmless in themselves, but can be very disfiguring. Especially if it occurs on the face. These places may be more vulnerable, causing bleeding to occur. Port-wine stains can indicate abnormalities in the veins, arteries or lymphatic vessels. They are rarely accompanied by other congenital abnormalities.


Nowadays it is possible to treat a port-wine stain with a dish laser or flash lamp. A laser treatment is a therapy with a very strong light source with light of one specific color. Each type of laser has its own color of light. Beforehand, a color is chosen that is absorbed by the capillaries. As a result, these blood vessels are, as it were, burned away, with little or no damage to the skin. The larger the port wine stain, the more treatment sessions will be required. Because the treatment can be painful, it is usually not chosen to treat young children.

Rosacea (red cheeks and nose)

This condition is characterized by reddish skin and mainly occurs on the cheeks and nose. It is mainly seen in middle-aged women. Broken blood vessels are visible. These are called telangiectasias. It sometimes looks a bit like acne because of the bumps and pimples that can develop, but it has nothing to do with it. People with rosacea also often suffer from eye complaints such as inflamed eyelids or cornea, dry eyes and the feeling that there is sand in the eyes. The true cause of this bothersome condition is not known, but the following things can make rosacea worse:

  • Stress
  • Medicines with vasodilatory effects
  • Alcohol
  • Certain foods, such as spicy food
  • Hormones (menopause)
  • Hypersensitivity to certain products



This chronic skin condition can be treated. For example, you should irritate the skin as little as possible, avoid alcohol and spicy foods, avoid extreme cold and heat, excessive exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoke. The redness can be reduced by laser or light therapy. Because rosacea cannot be cured, treatment will have to be repeated. This condition may become less severe in the long term.


This condition is characterized by many small broken capillaries that are usually located on the cheeks, nose, chin and sometimes on the décolleté. These can be caused by heredity, alcohol use, medication, excessive sun exposure, extreme temperature fluctuations or smoking. Treatment often consists of light and laser therapy and coagulation. This involves cauterizing the vessels, which will reduce the redness. In some cases, camouflage therapy is chosen.

Spider nevus (spider head)

This involves a local dilation of a small skin vessel. These are usually located on the face, neck, back of hands or forearms. It looks like a red dot that is central with several small extensions, hence the name. It can affect anyone at any age, but is most commonly seen in pregnant women. It usually disappears on its own after pregnancy. This condition is harmless, but can be cosmetically disturbing. This condition is sometimes seen in people with liver problems or thyroid problems. It can disappear on its own, but you can also have it treated with laser therapy or coagulation. There is a small chance that a scar will remain visible after treatment.

Stork bite

A stork bite is a blood vessel abnormality that occurs on the forehead, eyelids and neck. It even occurs in about 30 percent of all newborns. It is probably not a true vascular malformation but a dilation of the small capillaries of the skin. It disappears gradually and is usually gone before the age of one year. If there is a stork bite on the neck, it usually remains visible until adulthood.

Vein abnormalities (venous malformation)

There is an error in the construction of the veins. Veins provide blood flow from the tissues to the heart. If this does not function properly, it will manifest itself in a blue vascular tangle and sometimes as varicose veins. If complaints arise such as a feeling of heaviness or pain, you can opt for treatment. This can be in the form of a support stocking, or by having a liquid injected, which causes the vessel walls to stick together on the inside. In some cases, surgery is chosen.

Abnormalities in arteries (arteriovenous malformations)

This involves an error in the construction of arteries. Arteries normally provide blood supply to the tissues. If there are too many arteries, too much blood enters the tissue. This causes complaints such as a warm or throbbing feeling, pain and red tissue. This condition can be congenital, but can also develop later in life. Treatment can take place by injection with alcohol under anesthesia. This procedure sometimes needs to be repeated.

Abnormalities of lymphatic vessels (lymphatic malformations)

This involves an error in the construction of lymphatic vessels. These vessels normally ensure that tissue fluid (lymph) is returned to the heart. This condition manifests itself in the skin by the appearance of very small blisters that are sometimes filled with clear or bloody fluid. If the blisters break, it can leak. This means there is a chance of an infection. Treatment consists of injections, wearing support stockings or pressure suits.

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